Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Marketing

Six ways to build momentum in a down market

By David Laituri on June 12, 2009

I recently attended a small but enthusiastic gathering of sustainable design practitioners at the Designer’s Accord town hall meeting held in Boston. There was no shortage of passion in the room and there were plenty of good ideas to share, but the consensus amongst all was clear: if sustainable design was challenging to practice in a good economy, it’s even more difficult in a bad one.

Whether a consultant outsider or a corporate insider, everyone I spoke to seemed to feel an increased sense of powerlessness to affect the kinds of changes that need to be made. Faced with much tighter project budgets, most find that emphasis on project cost reduction is quickly eclipsing emphasis on sustainability.

How Sustainable Thinking Can Change Design

By Terry Swack on May 9, 2009

This article and podcast interview with Sustainable Minds co-founder Terry Swack was conducted by Jonathan Bardelline and published April 16, 2009.

Greener design methods hold a world of possibilities for businesses, from saving a bit of money on materials to developing completely new products, packaging and distribution methods. They also have the potential to change how designers learn, how they think about projects and, on a larger scale, alter designers' careers.

Terry Swack, co-founder and CEO of SustainableMinds.com, spoke with GreenBiz Radio about how sustainable design can help companies through the economic downturn and into the future, and where design changes need to be made to have the biggest impact.

Swack will be speaking at GreenBiz.com's Greener by Design conference May 19-20 in San Francisco.

The world’s first chocolate-powered, vegetarian race car: the F3

By Guest contributors on May 4, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contributor Matthew Heatherington, a PR executive with Life Agency.

The steering wheel is made from carrots, the engine is powered by waste chocolate and vegetable oil, potatoes were used to help produce the bodywork… and it goes 125 mph round corners!

Following the recent turmoil in Formula 1 arising from the high costs of running competitive motor racing teams, and doubts in sponsors’ minds over the commercial value of their involvement, the viability of motor racing is being critically questioned.

With this in mind, the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC), part of the University of Warwick, is seeking to prove to the motor industry that it is possible to build a competitive racing car using environmentally sustainable components.

The new WorldFirst racecar is a clever piece of lateral thinking. It is the first Formula 3 racing car designed and made from sustainable and renewable materials.

Recession or not, consumers still buying green

By Linda Chipperfield on April 20, 2009

Has the worst recession since World War II dampened consumer demand for green products? Not according to a study* commissioned by my organization, Green Seal, and our research partner, EnviroMedia Social Marketing, in January of this year.

We discovered that four of five consumers are still buying sustainable products despite the recession. That’s great news for manufacturers who have made the commitment to include sustainability in their cost-benefit analysis when planning new products. It’s proof that as a nation, our growing commitment to living more sustainably runs deeper than economic fears.

When an artist approaches sustainability, all the lights turn green.

By Sandy Skees on April 13, 2009

 It might be presumptuous for me to talk about great design when my area of expertise is public relations and branding. But I can assure you that launching any product into the marketplace successfully has two basic requirements – a deep understanding of the market and its customer needs, and a beautifully intuitive response to those needs. Right now, I am working with a new company that perfectly demonstrates the value of great design for a shifting market. It began with a little known fact about electricity usage: 22 percent of all electrical power generated in the world is used for lighting. A quarter of that power is used for exterior lighting, which costs $3.2 billion per year in the U.S. alone.

Do We Need All this Stuff? It’s Now Quality over Quantity

By Sandy Skees on March 27, 2009

As sustainable design takes hold, there is increased focus on life cycle issues and growing demand that design become a change agent for transforming cultural and business systems. Daniel Pink’s book, The Whole New Mind, does a brilliant job of explaining how design has become one of the six senses that will thrive in the new world.

But it seems to me, and recent research bears this out, that the first question a designer must ask is, do we need this?

I was chatting the other day with a technology analyst seeking to understand how sustainability will impact the Web 2.0 start-up mentality prevalent in Silicon Valley. I suggested that the first question to ask any entrepreneur or inventor should be, “Does this heal or hurt the world?” Because when you can marry a beautifully-designed, innovative device or service that ALSO adds to the quality of life, then the market will respond favorably. Rethinking our approach might mean not making that new thing you were thinking of making!

The proof that this trend is real comes from a disparate set of indicators:

Recession killing your high-end products? Try marketing your junk.

By Lorne Craig on March 20, 2009

I was wandering blissfully through my local supermarket when a magazine caught my eye. Junk Beautiful it proudly proclaimed. And with its clean, well-styled photography, and a decent design, this magazine/DVD bundle actually does fair justice to its title. What’s more, it has lessons for any company that is facing recession pressure.

Now, I am an admitted scrounger. I love perusing thrift stores, yard sales and Craigslist for pre-used treasures that can live again while saving some landfill and manufacturing resources. So this sort of thing is right up my dumpster-dotted alley. But consider the marketing power of this concept for a moment. Here is a company that’s not extracting, manufacturing or even selling a thing. They simply offer education, inspiration and motivation, while encouraging people to save money with style (at 13 bucks an issue).

Summarizing sustainability

By Guest contributors on March 6, 2009

This post was submitted by guest contributor and author Nathan Shedroff. In his book, Design is the Problem (released March 2009), Nathan explores one of the most interesting sustainable design strategies available to product developers.

When people first approach sustainability, it can be a confusing and frustrating experience. There are so many voices, and so many perspectives that can seem to contradict each other. My own experience in earning an MBA in Sustainable Management was like that until the end of the second year.

There are many pundits who claim to have the answer and many frameworks that are positioned and promoted as the best. But they seem to have only partial solutions and sometimes they even contradict one another. In my experience navigating this world, I’ve come to the following conclusion: they're all valuable because they provide an important piece – albeit partial – of a much larger picture.

Leveraging universal themes to build loyalists

By Sandy Skees on February 27, 2009

“I belong.”
“What I do matters.”
“In spite of it all, I am hopeful.”

As our massive institutions stumble and crumble before our very eyes, we are seeing the emergence of new themes that permeate discussions online, in line at Starbucks, on the airwaves and inside our heads. These themes can be guides for product designers and communicators when solidifying plans for the next 12-18 months.

According to Trendwatching.com, there is an increasing requirement that generosity become a dominant driver in both business and social interactions and institutions. Every media outlet reports on massive citizen uproar and consumer rejection of the greed that has pervaded previously trusted companies. Everyone is looking for institutions that are truthful, that give back, that will be part of the solution. Mix that with the fast-growing online community of individuals who collaborate, donate, spread the word and raise the alarm and you have a powerful new market force. They know their power and they are wielding it, at the voting booth, in online causes, through viral video and even in winning Super Bowl ads.

Sustainability Performance Software – an emerging sector

By Terry Swack on February 9, 2009

We’ve all heard the expression, “companies measure what matters, and what matters gets measured.” As organizations endeavor to figure out what sustainability and green mean to them, software vendors are emerging to help. Given the lack of definition, standards and regulation, organizations are learning and taking action at their own pace, and there’s a lot for everyone – organizations, software vendors, industry groups and government – to figure out.

In the effort to explain where Sustainable Minds fits in the software landscape, we realized that we had to define this new sector, just to explain where we fit within it. For this purpose, we’ve coined the phrase ‘Sustainability Performance Software.’ Being a customer-centered product design organization, our definitions are based on who the customers and users are of these new apps, and their purposes for purchasing.